Monday, April 22, 2013

I Didn't Know What Was Missing

"Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?"  Henry David Thoreau

Kevin, Rebecca and I gave the sermon (I use that term loosely) recently at our church. Rather than a sermon, we talked about our friends who have joined us from Africa. Kevin started us off by inviting one of our Congolese friends to join him up front, and they talked about his family’s story. Why they fled Congo, how they made their way to a refugee camp in Rwanda and then how they eventually made their way to Boise. Their story is not for the faint of heart. Their father was killed, their mother fled in the night with all five of her children, and another on the way. They spent 15 years in the Kiziba Refugee Camp in Rwanda, living in tiny homes with tent like roofs, dirt floors, no running water, and no cooking facilities. It is simply a miracle they are living safely in the U.S. today.

Rebecca followed with a Biblical view of refugees. She highlighted those characters in the Bible who were refugees, the Israelites (famine) and even Jesus himself (persecution).

I was the caboose. My part of our presentation consisted of a series of Tweets - insightful thoughts about life - gleaned from those I follow on Twitter. This is apparently what you do when you have no profound original thoughts.

Here are a few of my very favorite Tweets.

My desire was to show the heart I believe Jesus wants us to have for those in our world who suffer. I wanted not only to introduce empathy but to fuel action. I talked about our increasing involvement in the lives of the refugees who attend our church. These dear friends who have grabbed hold of our hearts with no sign of ever letting go.

While I spoke I wanted to share how much greater the reward is than what we give. It is little trouble to drive my friend to an appointment and babysit her sweet children. How could I do otherwise when I know her alternative is a lengthy bus ride with a two year old on her back and a five year old in hand? This, while she is just weeks from delivering her fourth child. To sit comfortably at home knowing this seems unconscionable.

Unfortunately, I suffer from an odd condition with no scientific name. It's symptoms are this: many times (okay every time) when I try to speak of things of great beauty or sadness or anything that tugs at my heart, tears come. There it is. I am a crier. My friends all know this. I can barely read the grocery list tear-free.

What I wanted to say last week was this. To be included in the lives of our new friends is like nothing I've known. It is new and beautiful and full of surprises and sometimes confusing and just - full. Last night, I drove my sweet friend and her children from her brothers' and sister's apartment back to the homeless shelter where they have been living since January. When I arrived at the apartment, I was greeted with enthusiasm. Each family member came out of whatever room they happened to be in to greet me, shake hands with me, and as they always, always do ask, "How is Kevin? How is Rebecca? How is your day?" The full house, the barely controlled chaos - I love it all. This. This is what I wanted to say last week when I stood before my church family and made a feeble attempt at saying just this - When you open your life to the refugees living in your community, they will fill your heart with something you didn't know was missing. That you didn't even know existed.

Jesus, please help me see the face of God in each of us.

Friday, April 12, 2013

I Am Believing God

Last month my husband and I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with our daughter, Rebecca, at Whitworth University. Rebecca will be a freshman at Whitworth this fall. While there we attended Parent College, which was amazing. We listened to two lectures, one from Professor Patricia Bruininks, a psychology professor who did her thesis work on - wait for it - hope! I want to go back to college, please.

We then heard from theology professor Gerald Sittser. Professor Sittser shared that Whitworth doesn't require its faculty to sign any statement of faith. Instead, each applicant submits their own statement of faith, one they have written personally. I loved this and immediately started wondering what my own personal statement of faith would look like (I did hear the remainder of his lecture - I promise).

The idea sounded so great I assigned it as homework to the friends who gather with us each week in our home for Bible study. And they did it! Not only did they complete their homework, they loved it - and so did I. If you had been in our home Wednesday night, you would have seen a diverse group of Jesus followers, scattered around our living room listening intently as we each read aloud our personal beliefs about God. It was, indeed, a fantastic evening, and I am grateful.

Here is my own personal statement of belief, long thought over, prayed about and years in the making.

  • I believe in God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator of all things, me included.  God is all powerful and keeps His promises to me.
  • I believe on my own I am a mess, sinful and selfish, but with Christ I can do all things. God's love, the saving blood of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit living in me, make me whole, perfect and valuable to God, worthy of His love.
  • I believe in God's holy word, and that it is alive and active in me.
  • I believe God wants me. He wants my attention, my love, my whole self and not just a piece of me. I give this to Him through worship and prayer and what I choose to give my heart to each day.